Monday, April 06, 2009

Earthquake in Italy: Predicted and Muzzled?

In a classic case of government-knows-best, stories are coming out the rubble of L'Aquila, claiming that a well-known Italian seismologist tried to warn the populace of the upcoming disaster but was silenced by local officials:

An Italian scientist predicted a major earthquake around L'Aquila weeks before disaster struck the city on Monday, killing dozens of people, but was reported to authorities for spreading panic among the population.

The first tremors in the region were felt in mid-January and continued at regular intervals, creating mounting alarm in the medieval city, about 100 km (60 miles) east of Rome.
Vans with loudspeakers had driven around the town a month ago telling locals to evacuate their houses after seismologist Gioacchino Giuliani predicted a large quake was on the way, prompting the mayor's anger.
Giuliani, who based his forecast on concentrations of radon gas around seismically active areas, was reported to police for "spreading alarm" and was forced to remove his findings from the Internet.

Italy's Civil Protection agency held a meeting of the Major Risks Committee, grouping scientists charged with assessing such risks, in L'Aquila on March 31 to reassure the townspeople.
"The tremors being felt by the population are part of a typical sequence ... (which is) absolutely normal in a seismic area like the one around L'Aquila,"
the civil protection agency said in a statement on the eve of that meeting.
"It is useful to underline that it is not in any way possible to predict an earthquake," it said, adding that the agency saw no reason for alarm but was nonetheless effecting "continuous monitoring and attention".

Seems like the government-owned scientists were just a wee bit off when they said the early seismic activity was normal. Seems like they may have been incorrect about that whole " no need for alarm" statement as well.

No, it was more important for the government to be in control then to listen to a seasoned seismologist who was convinced he was on to something. It was more important to roll out store-bought "scientists" (special "global warming is a dire threat" price now! Two for the price of one!) that could parrot the authorities' line than to discuss the possibility of an evacuation plan.

In other words, the government's retention of power - even in the most modest sense - was more important than the lives of its citizens. And any attempts of said citizens to stand up and help themselves, or think for themselves - must be thwarted ASAP, no matter what the price in human life.

Just happened in Britain; and as we just saw in Binghamton, New York, the police's decision to chill out for two hours outside the scene of a shooting rampage while citizens lay dying inside is already considered as off-limits for discussion by the Broome County District Attorney .

Currently we have amost 100 dead and over 1500 injured in L'Aquila. How many is too many for the government to start relinquishing control back to the people?

Sadly, for those in power, I don't think there is a number that qualifies as "too many"...

UPDATE 4/7: The media finally gets around to this story....

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